The Oprah Winfrey Network’s plans for a documentary reality series following recently drafted football player Michael Sam are now “postponed” following backlash that came after the announcement of the series. The network’s president, Erik Larson, said in a statement:
“After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team. OWN is about elevating and empowering people to achieve their best. It’s clear that we, along with the world, recognize the important opportunity that Michael now has in this moment. We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams.”
Michael Sam’s agent said in a statement:
“After today’s meeting with the Rams, we collectively feel it is best to postpone the project. This will allow for Michael to have a total focus on football, and will ensure no distractions to his teammates. Everybody involved remains committed to this project and understands its historical importance as well as its positive message.”
There’s no word as to when it might not longer be postponed, but my guess would be that the show will never happen. Part of what made it a good idea was following him as he attempted to make the team. The announcement even said that it was pretty much only about what’s happening right now: it was supposed to “[spotlight] the former University of Missouri football player and his historic journey as he prepares to enter the biggest professional sports league in America.”
Earlier, the NFL said it was unaware of the OWN series, despite a report that suggested otherwise. NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said the NFL “Did not know anything about it until after the draft and have not agreed to anything about it.”
In the sports world, news of the documentary series–to be produced by Pilgrim Studios and Amy Rice, who also worked on OWN’s Lindsay–wasn’t well-received.
For example, In The Boston Globe, Derrick Z. Jackson wrote that the series was a “Big mistake” because, while Michael Sam has said he doesn’t want to be “Michael Sam the gay football player,” the series would do the opposite: “By signing on with OWN, Sam wants his pioneering both ways. He tells the media not to make a circus out of his rookie season because he is focused on being a team player. But then he reportedly did not tell the Rams that he wants Oprah to be the ringleader of a carnival that’s all about him.”